All hail the social networking of the 21st century! The new god of communication, relationships, information sharing and anarchy continues to bring forth billions of dollars of revenue while the world stands in awe at how clever it all is. What fun to show your friends how your grandchildren are growing — to tell your mate how much you love him/her, and to show the world how successful you have become. What was the price of this new toy? The loss of one’s privacy — the stealing of many people’s personal and financial details and the illusion that we have hundreds of “friends” who are actually interested in the minutiae of our lives. The potential damage to us individually and as a free people has now exploded beyond all expectations.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been brought to testify before the United States Congress. It is about time. Facebook was created 14 years ago. It went from being an innocent social networking site to a convenient tool for terrorists to use to organize their followers — to teach Jihadists how to perpetrate murder and mayhem, and how to bring down their nation’s governments through rebellion which then resulted in anarchy. I truly believe that the Middle East would not have imploded during the “Arab Spring” which began with the Egpytian uprising in 2011, without social networking as its facilitator. This tool instantaneously aided the spreading of “the message” to revolt. We blithely refer to this period without realizing that it not only impacted Egypt but also Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Libyia and Saudia Arabia. It continues even as we speak. I cannot avoid holding Mr. Zuckerberg personally accountable.
In the process of creating this behemoth…both the social networking sites and the search engines — it became apparent that they needed to be managed in a way to keep their subscribers happy. What could be better than devising a system whereby the computers could determine what it is that you are interested in, and hence-send you only the information that you will enjoy? The “hook” is to keep avid participants. Thus, if you hate President Trump…you receive only anti- Trump messages. If you love Israel you only receive pro-Israel items. If you are an anti-Semite, you will be joined up with the other anti-Semites in the world. What a wonder the world of Algorithms can be. An Algorithm is a formula used by the different social networks and search engines to predict which content you will want to receive, and it proceeds to filter out that which offends you. The offensive articles do not disappear, they simply go to others who agree with the ideology. I cannot remember one anti-Jewish or anti-Israel article coming to my Facebook pages or Google searches…and yet I know that they exist. I have seen volumes of them at conferences dealing with this world-wide crisis. This does not even begin to address what is being promulgated in other languages. In Arabic, sites still teach Arabs how to knife Jews and Infidels in the most lethal parts of the human torso. The ABC’s of “do-it-yourself” bomb making and Jihadi ideology can be found in the lesser known sites, and they exist with impunity. As I don’t read Arabic, and also have no interest in perpetrating violence to impose my ideology, these don’t show up in my search engine or on my telephone. The recent efforts to block some of this material is tepid. None of the corporations involved have voluntarily chosen to limit the evil spread on the sites. They were coerced into what minimal action they have taken thus far.
A conference which I attended at the Israel Foreign Ministry this year was addressed by world-wide government and private experts all of whom detailed just how savvy the “haters” and those who plan to perpetrate evil, have become. While Facebook ,Twitter, Instagram and the dozens of other sites are pretending to be concerned with …and yet not accepting their responsibility in these matters – the truly evil perpetrators have entered a far more sophisticated area now called the “deep web.” In this area of communication, there is encryption and firewalls and ways to block the authorities who monitor them spreading their insidious intent. The world governments understand that this exists… and have begun assigning “watchdogs” to track and disrupt their activities…to little avail. As one site is recognized, another “morphs” into existence and the original one disappears. That Congress is talking to Facebook seven years after they saw how it was used to disrupt the entire Middle East, is seriously disturbing. Why were these hearings not held immediately? The excuse for turning a blind-eye to what was evolving is- that in America, the “Freedom of Speech” is sacrosanct. The difficulty of creating regulation in the United States is not a valid excuse to avoid facing reality of this entity which can be used to destroy civilizations with clicks of a button. There are legal experts who have found solutions to the complicated road-blocks. They need leaders who are prepared to listen to them.
Governments must now seriously focus on what is happening on the world-wide web. At their current speed, and with the limited resources that they are investing, it is clear that they have not accepted the severity of this new reality. This abuse of their responsibility cannot be minimized.
Recent articles have exposed these social networking and search engine sites for what they are – money making enterprises for the stockholders. Facebook itself in 2017 had a total revenue of 40.7 billion dollars. In four years, its gross revenues went from less than 8 billion to over 40 billion. Is that the only reason that Congress thought it might be “interesting” to speak to Mr. Zuckerberg? Was this ”financial explosion” more critical than the” implosion “ of the Middle East? World public interest has been ignored in a devastating fashion.
My article which appeared in the Jerusalem Post magazine (July 1, 2016) – almost two years ago, was entitled” Facebook-A Tool for Murdering Jews.” My last line of that article read “Mr. Zuckerberg, how do you sleep at night?” Apparently, the answer is – that he sleeps very well. He goes into slumber, counting his money as one counts sheep- and has little internal conflict.
How do we know this? Even today, after serious meetings with those fighting hatred on the Web, the public spokesperson for Facebook has limp responses to tough questions. Their general policy is to “look into any complaint” lodged against a posting. That could take weeks or months and ultimately may or may not be removed according to their “internal standards” or inclination. No recourse for the dissatisfied. There needs to be legal recourse at the very least. These sites clearly have double or triple standards in order to sell their product. They are quite prepared to accept a relative morality-that different cultures have different standards. They certainly accept that the Arab culture of Israel and Jew hatred is not something which should be automatically blocked. It’s all about the bottom line.
Congress can grill Zuckerberg and his cohorts until the proverbial “cows come home”, but until the world’s governments get serious about how insidious instantaneous -mass communication without controls has become, there will continue to be a heavy price to pay.
Sell your shares in social networking sites. Use the sites only to wish your friends a “happy birthday” and move on. Someone close to me told me that she was closing down her Facebook page. She said it was time for her to invest her energies in “real relationships with real people.” Well said-from a woman who previously proclaimed on Facebook, how happy her marriage was- just before filing for divorce. On one level it is all an illusion and on another it can be shockingly destructive and very real.
That Congress has taken so long to pay attention to the web phenomenon is deeply disturbing. A mere five years after Facebook was created ostensibly to be an innocent source of friendship and relationships, it was used to mobilize the middle east for the Arab Spring which began seven years ago and have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths thus far. Any illusion that we live in a world which gives one whit about morality, has again been shattered.
If Congress continues to address regulating the Web at its current pace, it really need not bother at all. If the leaders of the free world – the United States Congress, do not face this crisis… then who will?
The world is at a precipice, and its leaders are asleep.